Dane Fox broke out in a big way Saturday night in front of Erie Insurance Arena’s first ever sellout.
Unfortunately for Fox, it was in a losing effort.
Fox scored three goals, added one more in the shootout but the Sarnia Sting got the last laugh when Charles Sarault scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give the visitors a 5-4 win in front of 4,439.
It was only fitting that Sarault got the winner past Erie goalie Devin Williams, as he was part of a line that gave the Otters fits all night long.
Sarault, along with Reid Boucher and rookie NikolayGoldobin combined to record all four goals and eight total points in a game where Sarnia needed all the help it could get as they had some serious firepower out of the lineup.
The Sting (23-13-0-3) were without goaltenders JP Anderson and Brodie Barrick, who are both hurt, leaving Knicholas Dawe, who entered the game with just two periods of Ontario Hockey League experience between the pipes.
Additionally, Sarnia was without leading scorer Alex Galchenyuk and top defenseman Connor Murphy, who won gold earlier in the day at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa, Russia with Team USA. The Americans beat Sweden 3-1 in the title game on Saturday.
But the Sting, the best team in the West Division, wasted little time making Dawe comfortable and putting the Otters in a quick hole as Reid Boucher beat Williams just 48 seconds in.
After Fox, who was playing in just his 11th game of the season after missing time recovering from foot surgery, scored what would be the first of his three goals at the 5:39 mark of the opening stanza, Goldobin struck to give the Sting a 2-1 lead.
Fox once again tied the game as he found some open ice in the slot and wired a shot into the upper corner to knot the game at 2 after 20 minutes.
It would be quite some time before the Otters would find themselves tied in the game as Boucher beat Williams once again for the only goal of the second period to make it 3-2 before Sarault scored 43 seconds into the third to give the Sting a two-goal cushion in the third period.
But back came the Otters as Luke Cairns beat Dawe at 6:35for his sixth of the season, setting the stage for Fox to once again become the hero.
After two Sarnia players collided in the neutral zone, Fox took the puck over the blue line with Connor Brown for a two-on-one break. Fox looked to pass but instead wired a puck that just slid under the crossbar to tie the game, get the hats flying onto the ice and get the largest crowd of the season into a frenzy.
Moments before Fox’s marker, Williams made a key glove save on Bryan Moore, who streaked in alone for a breakaway but couldn’t get the puck into the net.
Williams was once again solid in net, stopping 25 of 29 shots in the contest. Oscar Dansk, who was the third goalie for Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship, should be back in Erie in time for Wednesday’s 7:00 p.m. tilt against Owen Sound at Erie Insurance Arena.
Williams would have liked nothing more than to welcome him back with a victory, but Sarault had other plans as he finally broke through to end the game with a shot that beat Williams clean between the legs in the shootout to seal the deal.
Fox was the only Otter to score in the shootout, as J.P. Labardo, Brown, Stephen Harper and Cairns were all turned away by Dawe, who moved to 2-0 this season with his 30-save performance on Saturday.
Aside from Fox’s big night, Luke Cairns finished with two assists to go along with his goal and Brown also dished out two helpers, giving him a team-leading 48 points on the season.